A Manifesto (with a soundtrack)

I don’t know anyone that enjoys music more than me, and if I ever met someone who did I’d probably be scared of them. Most people who know me tease me about my obsessive nature with music, which my video-game addled friends have frequently compared to a Pokemon mentality, I gotta get’em all. I’ve demonstrated OCD behavior in the past, most of which is under control now because I focused it all towards collecting and listening to music. I now have well over a thousand records, hundreds of CDs and even a few 8-tracks and cassettes. As you may have guessed, my Mp3 collection is massive, with over 35,000 songs, adding up to 108 days of music.

I still buy most of the music I listen to. Sure I’ll download some off of BitTorrent on occasion, but for the most part I play by the rules and pay for what I want to hear. Not only that, I tend to go out of my way to buy the actual physical CD and not a digital download. I’m not a fan of digital downloads, I think the quality is substandard many of the times and they offer no real protection should my computer decide to die a fiery death. Also, I’m a real fetishist for having a physical copy of something. I like to read the linear notes, hold the case, examine the CD art. Sure, there are digital booklets for that it’s not the same. I don’t care if that’s an old-fashioned or outdated way of looking at things, that’s how I feel. I think I’m one of the good guys, going out of my way to champion music and the purchasing of it. I used to not see a reasons to download music illegally that you could find easily legally unless you A) were broke or B) just had no qualms about stealing. But that’s not been an easy position to hold up for the past few months.

It’s getting very hard for me to get the music I want in an affordable and easy manner. First it was The Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist album, which was released in multiple versions with different tracklistings depending on where you bought it (none of these places being an independent record store) forcing fans who wanted to be legal to buy the same album four times. Then it was Depeche Mode with the bullshit iTunes Pass version of their upcoming Sounds Of The Universe, an $18.99 subscription to the album which promises to feature “exclusive” remixes and b-sides, none of which will be on the $99.99 special edition that I already pre-ordered. This week I finally snapped when I saw Mastodon including special instrumental tracks on the iTunes version of their new album Break The Skye and Pearl Jam tacking on some bonus live cuts for the iTunes edition of the new Special Edition of Ten.

Both of these albums are also available in very expensive deluxe editions, and neither of them contain the iTunes “exclusive” tracks. The limited edition of Crack The Skye came with an awesome lithograph and extra artwork, and that clocked in at $40. That one was only available at Mastodon’s website (it’s sold out now) as was another special edition that included a t-shirt and a bonus single, which features two of the instrumentals that were supposedly “exclusive” to iTunes. Hardcore fans who bought the more expensive editions at Mastodon’s website got fucked over by being left out of the other tracks on the iTunes version. And of course, you can’t buy those tracks separately, you have to buy the album to get them all.

It’s even worse with the Pearl Jam album. The Super Deluxe version of Ten costs $150. It’s worth the money to hardcore fans (such as I) as it’s loaded with bonus vinyl, a DVD, live stuff, artwork, booklets and even a reproduction of Eddie’s demo for the band. However, it doesn’t include the Live At The Academy tracks that are on the iTunes edition. If I pay $140 bucks for a damn album, I think I should be getting all the shit that’s included on the $16.99 online edition.

And, just like half of the Mastodon “exclusives” the Live At The Academy tracks aren’t even exclusive, they were originally included on a bonus CD that came with the fan club edition of 2006 self-titled album. Pearl Jam is my favorite band in the world (Those 35,000 mp3s on my hard drive? 2,481 are Pearl Jam tracks.) and I’ve always thought they’ve done a good job of putting themselves above the typical industry bullshit. Now I’m not so sure.

The most annoying this about all this is that as a die-hard collector there’s little I can do. I’m not going to stop buying Depeche Mode or Pearl Jam albums because of shit like this, hell, it’s hard to tell if it’s even their fault with record labels becoming more and more desperate to squeeze every buck possible out of the consumer. I think the one part of the equation that deserves the most blame however is iTunes.

The iTunes store has always sucked ass, and now it sucks in stereo. In addition to these bullshit examples there are countless more of albums getting “iTunes exclusive” tracks and even more where they make it impossible to buy individual tracks (especially on soundtracks). I’m done buying from iTunes until they stop with this bullshit. It hurts the fans who just want the most music possible from their favorite bands, and it hurts the record industry by limited what independent record stores can sell. It’s also false fucking advertising. Almost every “iTunes exclusive” isn’t a fucking exclusive, it’s usually a b-side, import track, vinyl cut or other rarity that just isn’t available at any other digital store. Any “exclusive” track you find on iTunes you can usually buy somewhere else, and if you can’t…well…that’s why they invented BitTorrent. I’m done with the iTunes store, and you should be too.

Now for some “exclusive iTunes” tracks!

The Strokes (featuring Regina Spektor)
Modern Girls and Old Fashioned Men
This track was my first exposure to the fraud that is an “iTunes exclusive” I saw it at their store and bought it right away. Then I found it a week later on a 7” single that had amazing artwork. I felt screwed over. A shame since it’s such a fucking amazing track. I love Regina Spektor and this track makes me yearn for a Julian Casablancas/Regina duet album. It would have to be better than First Impressions Of Earth.

Depeche Mode
The Sun And The Moon And The Stars (Electronic Periodic’s Microdrum Mix)
Oh Well (Black Light Odyssey Dub)
The two tracks so far released from the iTunes Pass edition of Sounds Of The Universe. These tracks will not be on the deluxe edition of the album which, as I stated earlier, costs $100. Oh yeah, that’s fair. The remix for “The Sun And The Moon…” is unbe-fucking-lievably good and totally worth buying, but you can’t if you want a physical copy of the record, so don’t. Steal it instead.

Smashing Pumpkins
The iTunes exclusive track to Zeitgeist. I tried posting this one the week the album came out, but couldn’t find the fucker. Time heals all wounds.

Kings Of Leon
Knocked Up (Lykke Li vs. Rodeo Remix)
Another track that’s labeled as an iTunes exclusive but is in fact not. This is an awesome remix/mash-up of a great song though. Too bad I bought it under false pretense on iTunes, I would have paid much more for a physical copy, but they told me it was an exclusive so I didn’t bother to check. You shouldn’t either.

Pearl Jam – Live At The Academy 1992
Not only did iTunes slab on four tracks of this concert that was readily available at Pearl Jam’s website and call them “exclusive” but their picks for which ones to use sucked. “Speed Wash,” “Sonic Reducer” and “Porch” were totally the way to go. This is the full CD which came with my copy of Pearl jam album. I posted this back then, now I’m posting it again.

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